Sunday, July 11, 2010

India-Day 31

I have been in India for a month. Crazy. I was going to upload some photos right now, but my camera is dead. So we'll see if we can upload some photos later and get ya a good view of the things that have been happening over the past little while.
This weekend was rad. Seriously, so amazing. So the cool thing about India is the amount of history that it has. It literally has 4000 years of history creating its culture, people, and lifestyle. Whereas in America, it's rare to find a building that's over 300 years old. This weekend we went to two world heritage historical sites: Ellora and Ajanta's monk-built caves.
On Saturday, we drove to Aurangabad, a city about 4-hours North-east of Pune, the city we've been staying in. We arrived and quickly checked into our hotel that only cost us 250 rupees a night (6 US dollars). Hotels in India are plain, but the room service is great. Amazing prices, wonderful Indian food, and fast! It is basically just a restaurant at my disposal. I didn't actually order anything, but Krishna got a omlette sandwich for breakfast. We ordered a few bottles of water for 15 rupees each (35 cents).
After checking into the hotel, it was another hour or so long bus ride to Ellora. I stepped out of the bus straight into Indiana Jones. We were in the midst of a giant forest with monkeys all around us. I'll talk more about the monkeys later, because they were friggin' awesome. Like I said, I stepped off the bus to see one of the most majestic sites I have ever seen. In front of me was a giant mountain, but it seemed as though the mountain had.
I am also soo happy i met krishna shastry.. He is the best ever!

Sorry, left the computer. Krishna got a hold of it.
Anyway, it seemed as though the mountain had had a giant section cut out of it. Inside this giant section that was cut out was a gigantic solid stone temple. This temple had been carved out of the solid rock that makes up the mountain. Several generations of monks would work throughout their entire lives to build these enormous structures using only two tools: a hammer and chisel. It is the most amazing thing I think I have ever seen in my entire life. Walking up to these buildings, I stood in awe at the dedication it must've taken in order to build such massive structures. At the Allora site, there wasn't only one of these giant structures; there were 35 massive caves dug out of the mountain. The caves were chiseled out by monks from Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions. Again, I just stood in awe thinking about the level of dedication that it must've taken for the monks from the three religions to continue throughout their lives to constructing the caves. Ever inch of the temple was carved with such marvelous and intricate detail. And again, words lack the adequate feeling or emotion that I need to express what it was like to see these sites. My favorite cave, besides the gigantic temple structure, was a cave that was shaped to have perfect acoustics for meditation chanting. In the center of the room was a giant statue of Buddha. When the tour guide took to some chanting "Ohm", I could feel the vibration of the sound enter into my body. I have realized why monks chant like that. It really is relaxing. It chills you out. Helps your mind sit at ease. Next time you need to chill out, try it. Especially if you got a sweet statue of buddha and an perfectly acoustic room at your disposal.

The next day, when I didn't think that things could get any more incredible, we take a bus up two hours to Ajanta to see another set of caves. These caves had actually been lost for 1000 years up until the early 19th century when John Smith (not Pocahontas' John Smith), while hunting a tiger, discovered the caves. Atop a tall mountain, Smith overlooked a giant canyon to see find these chiseled-out caves deep in the jungle of India. I actually liked these caves better than the ones at Ellora. I think because of the artistic influence on the caves of Ajanta. In each of the caves are great paintings of stories from Buddha's life. The caves at Ajanta were mainly Buddhist caves as opposed to the other caves at Ellora. Very graphic paintings of beautiful Asian color and style. I was impressed by the artistic knowledge that they did posses in the 5th century AD. There was one cave with a mural on the ceiling. They were colorful designs of earthy browns, greens, reds, and oranges. There were brighter blues, but it was rare because in the 5th century, they were not able produce blue out of what they had available to them. They had to purchase it from Persia. Anyway, this mural was so rad because it was made to look like a giant tapestry. The painting style made the painting look as though it were flowing with the wind like a giant tapestry would. The way they painted that was really amazing. Obviously, because the monks were painting inside the caves, light was very limited. In order for the monks to have sufficient light to paint, water was poured all over the floor so that it was flooded with about 1 or 2 inches of water. Then, using mirrors and metallic reflection, the sun was reflected onto the water, which in turn was reflected off the water to shine on the ceiling and provide the light needed to paint and work in the caves. Such incredible ingenuity. Most of the caves had individual rooms available for the monks to meditate. The rooms were about 10 x 10 and there would be about 7 or 8 monks meditating at a time in these small rooms. These rooms, as well, had perfect acoustics that allowed the vibrations of the chanting to be felt in your body. It was awesome.
After the tour of the caves ended, we were allowed to go off on our own to explore a little bit more. I continued checking out the caves. Then, I met up with Krishna and Tom, and we decided to climb to the other side of the canyon where John Smith had first seen the caves. The half moon cut out of the mountain created a giant canyon with a waterfall on the far side flowing into a pool of water. Then, a river flows through the canyon and between where we were standing and the caves on the other side. Everything around us was a lush green due to the amount of precipitation that India always gets. So, we ran up the trail to see this sight, and I don't think that any of us were ready for the splendor we were about to witness. It was really unfortunate that we only had about 15 minutes until we needed to meet up with the group. There was a nice man who was trying to sell us some quartz rocks. He showed us the best spots to take photos. We took some photos, but as usual, it is impossible to express the feeling of it all. The sight, the smell, the temperature, the sound, the wind. All of it combined to create an incredibly euphoric, out-of-this-world, indescribable emotion. Gah. It's so frustrating. You'll just have to look at the pictures and try to imagine it the best you can.
As we were sitting on the top of the mountain, it began to rain. Not only rain, it began to MONSOON! Before we knew it, we were trapped under a veranda hanging out with our rock friend and about 30 nice Indian folk. It rained and rained. As we were talking with our friend, he taught me a great lesson. I was telling him that we were poor college students and that we were going to be traveling, so we couldn't buy his rocks. He told us that we were rich and healthy. Then he said, "Health is better than wealth." He said in such a wise manner. I appreciated that small thought. It was beautiful, because he was just so sincere and kind. We finished our conversation with him, and then because we needed to get back soon, we headed out in the rain to get soaked. I broke off a big leaf of a tree and used it as a temporary umbrella to keep me dry. A lot of the Indians that were huddled under different verandas complimented our brilliant use of nature. After 10 minutes or so, we made it down the mountain and met up with our group who were all huddled together in a restaurant, completely dry.
The trip home was an adventure as well. I have never met better salesmen than the salesmen outside of the caves. Before they went up to the caves, they walked up to us, talked with us, and showed us their shops. They really seemed to express interest in us, but afterward, I came to understand that their seemingly good feelings were expressed as a desire to sell to us rich Americans. It sucked. All their stuff was all the same and highly highly over-priced. The man I met, Ali, was doing everything he could to sell to me. I told him I couldn't, so he kept going down. I continued saying that I couldn't, so he kept going down in price. Finally, he sold me a statue of a Buddha for only 500 rupees. I tried to leave, but he kept trying to sell me more stuff. I left and went back to the bus, but he followed me and even stayed outside the bus asking me to buy. He wasn't the only one. All the shop-keepers that had occupied my friends were pestering them as well. We would even close the windows, and they would open them up jamming their stuff into our faces. It was so nuts. The most pushy, intense salesmen ever. It was very interesting though.
The bus ride back to Pune was the most uncomfortable trip I have ever taken. I was so exhausted. And I couldn't get to sleep in a comfortable situation. Totally bummed me out. But finally after about 7 hours, we arrived at an ATM that is close by the apartment. Krishna, Sergio (the monk), his brother, and I all walked home from there. I got home, took a shower, started the laundry, and then passed out.
So the past few days were freaking awesome. So much fun. Rahm, Krishna and Ashok's Dad, and Kartik, Dhruva's Dad, are here. We leave tomorrow for New Dheli. It will be a 26 hour train ride. That should be interesting. We get beds, food, and the works. I finished reading Animal Farm. I started reading 1984 again. I have a good long ride to read that. "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." Boo yah.
So that's it. I know this was super long. So kudos to you for reading this stuff. Really, I am half writing it for you, but mainly writing it for me. But I hope you do enjoy it. I love you and probably miss you. God bless. Namaste.

1 comment:

  1. Alright, I am not gonna lie... that picture kinda freaks me out!